Summer Travel, Short Term Rentals and

I may be a little late to the game but I’ve just discovered that Airbnb rocks! My family and I were traveling on an extended vacation this summer and our home was going to sit empty. We decided to list it on Airbnb to make a little money to offset the cost of our holiday abroad. We were able to rent our home and with that money pay for an apartment in Denmark for two weeks. It wasn’t our first time renting a home in another country but this was definitely the easiest way. We rented a home last year in France through another vacation rental site but the experience wasn’t nearly as seamless. Not only was renting easy but listing on Airbnb is a cinch! It only took about half an hour and we had our home booked within a couple of weeks. Austin is a very desirable destination but it is also saturated with vacation rentals. You’ll have a better chance of renting your home if you follow a few key rules.

1. Make sure your house is uncluttered. Nobody can picture themselves living in someone else’s mess.

2. Turn on the lights or take photos during the daylight. A clean, bright house looks inviting. Also, remember to take a lot of pictures. We didn’t consider any houses with less than 6 pictures.

3. Make a big deal out of your local amenities. If you live near cool cafes or awesome local shops make sure to let your potential renters know. Renters want to know what the neighborhood has to offer.

4. Highlight upgrades or specials details about your home. A swimming pool or an amazing yard can go a long way in making your home stand out.

5. Make sure your calendar is up to date and respond to inquiries in a timely manner with a polite tone. Make sure you answer potential renter’s questions so that everything is settled before they book.

6. Work on getting great reviews by treating your guests well. Have an extra clean house with some special touches like a few breakfast items for their first morning and maybe some travel sized toiletries. Also, remember to leave a house manual for your guests so they know how to live in your space.

When renting on Airbnb there are also a few things to note.

1. Airbnb is trying to create a personal experience so you’ll want to contact the host before booking. They suggest telling them a little about yourself and your travel companions.

2. You may need to contact a lot of hosts before you get a response. We found that only about 70% of our requests received a response. Of those 70%, we got quite a few rejections. It seemed that calendars weren’t always up to date. So even though the calendar showed availability the properties weren’t really available for rent during our desired period.

3. Expect fees such as a cleaning fee which is clearly noted and look closely at cancellation policies as they differ for each property.

4. Make sure you search for homes within your comfort zone of “closeness.” For example, because we have a child, we were not interested in renting a room or sharing a home with someone. We wanted an entire apartment all to ourselves.

5. Read the reviews! They are there for a reason and really help narrow down the many, many listings.

There are also a few practical matters that you need to address when posting your home on Airbnb. It is important to look at local rules. For example, in  Austin, you must see if your home requires a Short Term Rental License. The City of Austin website ( states that “Owners of Short-Term Rentals (STRs) in Austin are required to obtain an operating license by City Council resolution (Ordinance No. 20130926-144). Sometimes called a vacation rental, the City of Austin defines an STR as the rental of a residential unit or accessory building for less than 30 consecutive days.” The City of Austin has an entire page dedicated to helping you make sure you’re in compliance with the city’s rules. You should also take a close look at your insurance policy and make sure that you’re covered if you’re using your home as short term rental.

The whole process of hosting guests and being a guest in someone else’s home is a bit bizarre but it stretches our travel budget enough that I think we can get used to it. It is an odd sensation knowing that perfect strangers are currently sleeping in my bed and even stranger to show up at someone’s flat on the other side of the world. It took us a couple of days to acclimate but once we kicked our jet lag and found the coffee pot we were set.

-Amity Courtois